Norm Coleman is a fool.
Not an ideological nut case, not a partisan whack, not even a useful idiot — just a plain old-fashioned, drool-on-his-tie fool.
The Minnesota Republican senator who took Paul Wellstone’s seat after one of the most disreputable campaigns in American political history has been trying over the past year to make a name for himself by blowing the controversy surrounding the United Nations Oil-for-Food program into something more than the chronicle of corporate abuse that it is. The US media, which thrives on official sound bites, was more than willing to lend credence to Coleman’s overblown claims about wrongdoing in the UN program set up in 1996 to permit Iraq — which was then under strict international sanctions — to buy food, medicine and humanitarian supplies with the revenues from regulated oil sales. Even as Coleman’s claims became more and more fantastic, he faced few challenges from the cowering Democrats in Congress.
But when Coleman started slandering foreign politicians, he exposed the dramatic vulnerability of his claims that the supposed scandal was much more than a blatant example of US corporations taking advantage of their powerful connections in Washington to undermine official US policy, harm the national interest and profit off the suffering of the poor.
The Senate investigation that Coleman sought regarding the Oil for Food program has already revealed that the Bush Administration failed to crack down on widespread abuse of the Oil for Food program by US energy companies, and that US oil purchases accounted for the majority of the kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime in return for sales of inexpensive oil. Indeed, the report concludes, “The United States (government) was not only aware of Iraqi oil sales which violated UN sanctions and provided the bulk of the illicit money Saddam Hussein obtained from circumventing UN sanctions. On occasion, the United States actually facilitated the illicit oil sales.”
Instead of forcing the President, his aides and the executives of Bayoil, the Texas oil company that the report shows paid “at least $37 million in illegal surcharges to the Hussein regime” — money that helped the Iraqi dictator solidify his grip on power — Coleman started to make wild charges about European officials such as British parliamentarian George Galloway.
The problem for Coleman is that Galloway is not a standard-issue American politician — the kind who has nothing to say and says it poorly. He is a veteran of the rough-and-tumble politics of Glasgow and the equally rough-and-tumble politics of the British Parliament. In other words, Galloway comes from places where voters and politicians do not suffer fools. And anyone who has ever followed British politics knows that George Galloway has beaten every political challenge he has faced — even those posed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.